Just in time for the Super Bowl, the National Football League Alumni Association (NFLAA) has announced a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) focused on raising awareness about COVID-19 safety and vaccinations.
The campaign will involve the NFLAA’s 39 chapters across the country, tapping thousands of former players for community outreach designed to boost trust in vaccines.
“We see a part to play in helping get the word out and helping to get all Americans vaccinated,” said Janet Marchibroda, a senior adviser for NFL Alumni Health and president of the nonprofit Alliance For Cell Therapy Now. “A lot of our messages are about safety. What you’ll start seeing in the next month or so as the vaccine supply increases is a really big push to get all of us vaccinated.”
The campaign launched this week with videos from former players, including former New York Giants Harry Carson and Bart Oates. In their messages, players detailed their plans to get vaccinated and urged viewers to do the same – and, until then, to follow CDC guidelines, wear a mask and avoid crowded areas. The videos have been shared via social media during Super Bowl week.
The campaign taps the ability of former players to draw on longstanding connections with their communities.
“We have a large African-American population of former players and we’re going to help target those communities through our members,” said Alliance For Cell Therapy Now board member and the NFLAA co-director of healthcare initiatives Kyle Richardson, who punted for seven teams during a nine-season career. “Our members want to be out there and extend their voice to their own communities.”
Former players will also team with state and local health departments. The idea, Marchibroda said, is to adopt a community-level approach, through which participants can tailor their appeals to each area they’re serving. Campaign activities might involve social media initiatives, partnerships with local media or virtual community events.
“We don’t want a cookie-cutter approach. We really want to work with each state and local health department to reach out to where they have gaps,” Marchibroda explained, noting that the campaign coincides with the arrival of data showing that Black and Latino Americans are being vaccinated at a much lower rate than white ones. “Because as you see from the data about disparities, it’s going to be different depending on the community.”